Bc blog image Yesterday, the Harry Potter Wiki held our second and final [Book Club] chat. We had a provocative discussion of chapter nine through the end of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Topics included favorite characters, mythological symbolism, and questions for J.K. Rowling. As you will see from the transcript below, this group knows Harry Potter so well and it made for really interesting and insightful commentary.

And feel free to join the conversation in the comments below!

5:01 Nblonkenfeld let's start! Straight with the first question. Many novels of high fantasy borrow from the traditional stories of fairytales, myths and legends. The dog Fluffy which guards the trapdoor at Hogwarts School resembles Cerberus, the three-heads dog which guards the underworld of Greek mythology. What other creatures from traditional tales are paralleled in the story? How does each of these creatures play a pivotal role in the advancing plot?

5:02 1337star Well, of course Rowling's dragons, one of which is featured prominently in this book, are clearly based off the European model.

5:02 Vesago I'm weighting a hp fanfic with vampires

5:02 SakraTheHedgie Hi to the newcomers~!

5:03 1337star Even the Chinese Fireball, an Asian dragon, is still very European in nature. (For those who don't know, dragons in Asian myths are generally friendly and do not tend to breathe fire.)

5:03 Nblonkenfeld I know it comes up later - but the Phoenix plays the best role

5:03 ProfessorTofty Harry Potter has a lot of different creatures that are found in mythology. In the first book, the centaurs and the unicorns are probably two of the ones that play the most major roles. Bit of an unfortunate one for the unicorns, because they kept getting killed by Voldemort so he can drink their blood to sustain life. And then one of the centaurs, Firenze, rescues Harry, but gets in trouble with the other centaurs for it. He has a more major role later on the series.

5:04 Nblonkenfeld 1337star - That's interesting. I didn't know that

5:05 Vesago Firenze as far as I know dosn't really have a role

5:05 ProfessorTofty And trolls crop up in a lot of mythical stories - though the main one in this one really just serves as a plot device so that Harry and Ron could rescue Hermione. • Firenze comes back again a semi-major way in a later book.

5:05 Vesago True

5:05 1337star Werewolves also get a brief mention in this book, though they will come up more starting in Book 3. Rowling's werewolves are interesting, as they're meant to be more bestial than the half-wolf hybrid we see in most fiction.

5:06 ProfessorTofty And there's also a reference to vampires, though they never really play that much of major role in any of the books.

5:06 Vesago Well the use of werewolfs is very different from the norm in the Harry potter books

5:08 Nblonkenfeld Can anyone else think of any other interesting mythological characters with significance?

5:08 1337star In a less grand sense, while they don't strictly exist in the Harry Potter world (as confirmed on Pottermore), many of the pets we see here are similar to the concept of a magical familiar.

5:08 ProfessorTofty I'm afraid I'm not very well steeped in werewolf mythology - what are some of the major differences of how they're used in the books from the norm?

5:08 1337star Hedwig and Mrs. Norris being prime examples. We'll really see the connection between Hedwig and Harry in later books, of course.

5:09 Nblonkenfeld Let's move on to the next one: 2. Quirrell tells Harry that, “There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it.” Do you agree with this? Is this the reality of the world? Or if good and evil do exist, what makes them so? Which is more important in the world, power, or good and evil?

5:09 ProfessorTofty The pet that seems to be closest to a magical familiar actually goes to a non-magician - Mrs. Norris. I hope we eventually get to learn more about her - it'd be nice to know exactly why and how Filch has such pull over her.

5:10 Nblonkenfeld I feel like this concept is played out in MANY different stories

5:10 1337star Ah, I remember the controversy this particular line caused. All the hyper-extremist Christians taking it out of context.

5:10 ProfessorTofty I don't know necessarily about good and evil, but it always seems like those who just seek a lot of power and control almost always end up worse for it in the end, both in fiction and in real life.

5:10 Vesago I would have liked it if Harry lerned that there is no good or evil as its part of growing up

5:11 Nblonkenfeld Similar to this philosophy is "The Force" in Star Wars. The dark and light side of the force.

5:11 HawkeyesGirl Good and Evil don't exist. It's just the way one's actions conform to society.

5:11 ProfessorTofty Assuming it's not spoiling too much, just take a look at Voldemort...

5:11 Bchwood Or how one uses power- for "good purposes" or for "evil purposes"

5:11 Nblonkenfeld @Vesago: I agree with you

5:11 ProfessorTofty He wants all this power and to live forever and everything, but what does he get? He gets some time in power, and then spends a large portion of his life living a terrible, miserable existence.

5:11 SakraTheHedgie I don't agree with that. I think it's more of a different quote form a different series that said, "Power is not good or evil, but the user makes it so." I think that's a better explanation of the reality of the world. To me, good and evil do exist; good is what's morally right in the world, while evil is what's morally wrong in the world. It's all personal preference.

5:12 ProfessorTofty He tries to talk as though he thinks nothing can hurt him, but he's always in fear because so long as he's trying to have control over him, someone is always going to be after him.

5:13 1337star Not to go into too much detail for spoilers sake, but "For the Greater Good" from Book 7 ties into this line a lot.

5:13 Nblonkenfeld It's also interesting to note - is living forever inheritantly evil in the context of this story from a philosophical standpoint?

5:13 ProfessorTofty And even if he does win once, all it takes is one really determined person and he's going to be right back to where he was again. • Well, not necessarily. on the living forever thing...

5:13 HawkeyesGirl Well, look at Nicolas Flamel. He lived for 665 years with his Elixer of Life, and no-one called him evil.

5:13 ProfessorTofty I mean, you have Nicholas Flamel, who was living for a really long time because he had a sorcerer's stone and probably would have kept living.

5:14 1337star Well, the method Voldemort takes for immortality is certainly inheritantly evil.

5:14 Nblonkenfeld @1337star Not to go into too much detail for spoilers sake, but "For the Greater Good" from Book 7 ties into this line a lot. Which is SCARY!

5:14 Vesago If voldy wanted to live forever by use of the stone then by extension falmel is even worse

5:14 1337star But, yeah, something like the Philosopher's Stone is less so.

5:14 ProfessorTofty Yeah, exactly on Flamel. He would have kept on living if Dumbledore hadn't convinced him that he should give up the sorcerer's stone. Or, yeah, Philospher's Stone if you refuse to accept the forced renaming.

5:14 SakraTheHedgie Living forever is a bittersweet victory. Sure, you never die, but you see everything and everyone else die around you. But that doesn't matter to Voldemort, since his heart is now a basic black hole.

5:15 1337star But the books definitely don't portray immortality as something you should want. No matter how you go about it.

5:15 Nblonkenfeld @1337star Exactly

5:15 ProfessorTofty Yeah, except Flamel kept his wife alive also, so he had the one he loved.

5:16 Vesago Because a borderline sinile man said you shouldn't want to live forever ?

5:16 SakraTheHedgie @Tofty True, true. I forgot about that.

5:16 1337star We see it here with the Stone and unicorn's blood, and there are a few more items later in the series that extend or partially restore life that are depicted as bad as well.

5:17 ProfessorTofty But getting back to real-life - look at somebody like say, Adolf Hitler. People like to talk about "oh, what if he had won," but you get somebody like that and, it's like I said, people are just going to keep trying and trying. It's just a no-win situation.

5:17 Nblonkenfeld So, is Good and Evil the two powers of the world? Is it an eternal battle?

5:18 HawkeyesGirl Good and Evil cancel each other out; like an acid-base reaction. Depending on how potent each is determines the product.

5:18 Vesago Neither I personally believe the choices are benefit humanity or yourself as opposed to good or evil

5:19 1337star Well, I'd say this series isn't quite so black and white as some, but there's still definite good and evil in Harry Potter, certainly.

5:19 SakraTheHedgie I believe it is. There's both good and evil in the world. Evil will always grow, always be lurking in the darkest shadow, but the spark of hope, the good, will always be there to fight it.

5:19 Vesago Very true

5:19 Cloverlinh Agree

5:20 1337star The interesting thing is that the good people are sometimes shown in a dark light, but the evil people are almost never shown in a good one.

5:20 ProfessorTofty Well, of course, nobody necessarily believes themselves to be evil. A device I've seen in a couple books is that the protagonist character uses magic or some such to force the villain character to experience the emotions and effects that their actions have had on those around them, reducing them to a jibbering wreck.

5:20 1337star Without spoiling later books, we see Harry, our hero, breaking school rules all the time, for instance.

5:21 ProfessorTofty Spoiling later books? We only need for the first book for that.

5:21 Nblonkenfeld Onto the third At the end of Harry’s adventures, when the Sorceror’s Stone has been safely destroyed, Dumbledore reveals to Harry that he devised the Mirror of Erised in the knowledge that Harry would succeed where Voldemort would fail. This admission raises the question of whether Dumbledore orchestrates other parts of Harry’s adventures too. Does he know, for instance, that the troll will be let into Hogwarts, and does he foresee Harry’s defeat of the troll? Is it possible that Dumbledore has a godlike foreknowledge of the whole story from beginning to end?

• 5:21 1337star Well, I meant that there are better examples in later books of what I was talking about. Oh, I read a great essay on another site about this question.

• 5:22 Nblonkenfeld is Dumbledore God? The Devil? A watcher?

• 5:22 ProfessorTofty Dumbledore is a very swift guy, but he doesn't have godlike foreknowledge. He may be able to anticipate certain things and take actions based on his guesses, which are often right, but he's certainly not omniscient.

• 5:22 HawkeyesGirl I think Dumbledore knows everything - like Alfred, for example - but he pulls the puppet strings to make things happen the way he wants.

• 5:22 1337star Minor spoiler: Dumbledore tells Snape to keep an eye on Quirrell in a flashback set at the start of this year.

• 5:22 SakraTheHedgie Dumbledore...I don't really have an opinion on this guy. He's an enigma to me. I just can't understand him half the time.

• 5:22 ProfessorTofty We see later on that he made some certain, very major mistakes, where a lot of grief could have been saved the characters had they been avoided.

• 5:23 Vesago I personally think he's just an old man people keep wanting to save them same as with harry

• 5:23 1337star That's in Book 7, I think.

• 5:23 ProfessorTofty Yeah, that's true. Even if he doesn't know something directly, he's also in a position of power and can have people reporting to him, so that's another way to gather information.

• 5:23 1337star It's not hard to argue that Dumbledore guided Harry towards finding the Mirror of Erised, at least.

• 5:23 Cloverlinh I don't think he can foresee, but he is intelligent, and actually, he's really and actually, he's old living that long time give you lots of eperiences

• 5:24 ProfessorTofty Yeah, he's well over 100 years old, so he has lots of life experience.

• 5:25 1337star One may also note that Dumbledore, who has been presumably ignoring the Ministry sending him owls for quite some time, randomly decides to answer one the night the book's climax goes down.

• 5:26 Nblonkenfeld He's my favorite character because he can't be pegged as good or evil. Is it Evil to send a boy to his death?

• 5:26 ProfessorTofty Heh heh. Very true.

• 5:27 Nblonkenfeld Is it evil to know the turn of events and proceed with them regardless of already knowing the path?

• 5:27 1337star Heh, I assume you're merely referring to this book, but of course that question gets more poigant when we look at the series as a whole.

• 5:27 Vesago It's very evil

• 5:28 ProfessorTofty And that goes back to the "greater good" thing on whether or not what Dumbledore is doing is evil.

• 5:30 1337star That's another question that hard to discuss without spoilering later books: is Dumbledore, or at least some of his actions, evil?

• 5:31 Cloverlinh Why would you think some of his actions evil????For example like ...???

• 5:31 HawkeyesGirl I don't think Dumbledore is necesserally evil as opposed to a being someone who does something in order to save the world. In a quite jerk-like fashion, might I add.

• 5:31 SakraTheHedgie Evil? I don't think so. Are some of his actions mistakes? Absolutely. But everyone, even Dumbledore, is human. We all make mistakes. Like I stated earlier, I really don't have an opinion on Dumbledore.

• 5:31 1337star Well, just to focus on this book, we see enough evidence to assume that Dumbledore is at least aware that Quirell may try to steal the Stone, and that Harry and co. may try to stop him, and he lets it all go down.

• 5:32 Seth Cooper Dumbledore's suspicion of Quirrell is further alluded to in Deathly Hallows.

• 5:36 Nblonkenfeld I personally love that it's up to the reader to decide. There is no CLEAR point on him

• 5:36 Melody6 He's very cool under pressure, it's almost inhuman in some way

• 5:36 1337star Is there some evil to him? Does he know even more than the vast amount he lets on to? Is he Stubby Boardman?

• 5:37 Seth Cooper Oh, he is definitely Stubby Boardman! • xD

• 5:37 Melody6 XD

• 5:37 HawkeyesGirl Silly 1337star. Stubby Boardman is Sirius Black!

• 5:37 Nblonkenfeld 4th QUESTION: Besides harry Potter himself, who was your favorite character in the book? Or which character did you find most interesting? Why? What details did Rowling provide that made that character come alive in your mind in all his or her complexity? Did you learn more about the character from their words, their appearance, or their actions? Did your first impressions of the character remain unaltered, or did you change your opinion of the character as the story went on? Do any of the characters remind you of someone you know?

• 5:38 Melody6 That one was lengthy

• 5:38 ProfessorTofty My favorite character is Professor Tofty! Just kidding. It's my little joke that he's my second favorite character.

• 5:38 Nblonkenfeld My vote goes to Voldy

• 5:38 1337star Just based off Book 1, Neville and Hermione would be up there as far as favorites.

• 5:38 ProfessorTofty Hermione Granger is my favorite character. I somewhat identify with her and her general style and I think at times she also adds a lot of humor to the story.

• 5:39 HawkeyesGirl My favorite is Neville. Take his first line "Gran I lost my toad again" He develops from this adorable child to someone so awesome!

• 5:39 SakraTheHedgie I have to say Harry himself. He's just so naive it's adorable.

• 5:39 Melody6 I'd have to go with Lupin, but it's hard not to love Neville

• 5:39 1337star Reaching out to the series as a whole, my favorite is Luna Lovegood, though. She comes in at Book 5.

5:39 Melody6 But she's so airy! It's hard to know what is going on in that head of her's

• 5:40 Nblonkenfeld I love that "He who shall not be named" had this legacy. This legacy attached to a boy. You didn't need to know EXACTLY what he looked lik in order to scare you and be curious of him.

• 5:40 ProfessorTofty I think she's one that really develops a lot because when she starts out, it can be hard not to find her aggravating, because she is rather interfering. But then she relaxes a bit and she also becomes a real asset and ally to the other characters. And she's very entertaining when she becomes, to use her word, rebellious.

• 5:40 SakraTheHedgie @Melody But that's what makes her awesome! She has to be one of my favorites, too.

• 5:41 ProfessorTofty She's also a cat person, and I tend to be fond of characters that are attached to cats. Though that's not always a good sign in the Harry Potter books - take Filch and Umbridge. Well, don't actually take them - who would want to?

• 5:41 SakraTheHedgie I was about to say...

• 5:41 Nblonkenfeld I don't think I necessarily love the bad guys to most books - but I find their backgrounds the most interesting and entertaining. For those of you who read on... Book 5 gets real deep with Voldermort

• 5:41 Melody6 Well, she is likable, I'll have to say that- a believer. Plus she is alike to Dumbledore about how she is so cool about things...@Sakura

• 5:42 Seth Cooper I quite like Quirrell as a character, really. He embodies each of our insecurities in a very non-Neville-in-the-later-books way, and shows us how we, in a moment of fragilily, can be so easily manipulated if we cannot make our own decisions and take our own stands.

• 5:42 1337star The significance of cats in Harry Potter would make a nice little essay.

• 5:42 Nblonkenfeld @Seth Agree

• 5:42 Melody6 Couldn't put it in a better way

• 5:43 ProfessorTofty Interesting thought, 1337star. We also, have, of course, Mrs. Figg and her kneazle/half-kneazle breeding business.

• 5:43 1337star And I'm sure you mean Book 6 is the one that gets deep with Voldemort, Nblonkenfeld?

• 5:43 Melody6 @Star. But why Cats? Why not toads? or dogs?

• 5:43 ProfessorTofty Well, there's only really one featured toad, and it seems to be used more for comedy than anything else.

• 5:43 SakraTheHedgie @Seth true. I don't like Quirrell, though. He just doesn't strike me as a good character. Then again, it's personal preference.

• 5:43 ProfessorTofty And there's only one major character that owns a dog, Hagrid. Well, two dogs if you count Fluffy.

• 5:44 Melody6 Quirrel was more of a used character, meaning he was made to be killed

• 5:44 Nblonkenfeld 1337star And I'm sure you mean Book 6 is the one that gets deep with Voldemort, Nblonkenfeld? CORRECT Y BAD

• 5:44 Melody6 Just like Rue in the Hungergames But that's a different matter

• 5:44 1337star Yeah, Quirrel is certainly a tragic character, more so if you've read Pottermore.

• 5:45 Cloverlinh YEah, just remember, Hagrid is also one of my favorite He's kind of weird, but he's interesting, right??

• 5:45 ProfessorTofty Yeah, he is.

• 5:45 Melody6 Hagrid is lovable, there's no denying that

• 5:45 Nblonkenfeld Hagrid is great!

• 5:45 Melody6 I love misfits, especially when they lead the story

• 5:46 ProfessorTofty My avatar is Bob, another one-shot. He had the box with the fire-breathing chicken in book 5. A fire-breathing chicken - that's a cool idea. We should've seen more of those.

• 5:46 Melody6 Oh, Bode, in book five, he was also another used character, or one-shot

• 5:46 Seth Cooper Hahaha... Bob was quite the visual gag -- I was so happy they included it in the film!

• 5:46 ProfessorTofty Yeah, Bob not Bode. Bode is an unspeakable - with the Department of Mysteries.

• 5:47 1337star Bode may also have been in the film, depending on how you interpret one of the extras.

• 5:47 Melody6 I never really liked the films compared to the books, but I never do. They did a awesome job casting Harry though

• 5:47 Nblonkenfeld This brings us to our 5th and FINAL QUESTION: If you could talk to the author, is there a question you would ask her?

• 5:48 ProfessorTofty The funny thing is Bob actually looks a bit in some ways like he could actually be an olderme. As a fan, there are so many questions I would want to ask her. It would probably be something related to one of the mysteries regarding the series that haven't yet been answered.

• 5:48 Melody6 I'd ask her were the heck she got the idea for Luna- was it a close friend?

• 5:48 1337star Speaking of the films and Quirrel for a bit longer, notice the Voldemort face on the back of Quirrel's head has a nose. Where'd it go?

• 5:49 SakraTheHedgie One question: what inspires your ideas for the Harry Potter plots in each book? We all know that the first one came from the real-life myths of the Philosopher's Stone. But what about the actual Chamber of Secrets? Or the actual Goblet of Fire? Where di those come from?

• 5:49 ProfessorTofty Melody - Rowling has said before that the only character she deliberately based on a real person was Gilderoy Lockhart.

• 5:49 1337star As a wiki editor, many of my queries deal with ironing out little plot holes and stuff that I doubt even she cares about.

• 5:49 Melody6 I'm sure there are a lot of arrogant people that come off as a Gilderoy

• 5:50 ProfessorTofty For example, at the beginning of the fourth book, Voldemort and Wormtail are having a conversation regarding a planned murder. But who was it that they were planning to kill? The book never makes this clear, as all of the deaths that happen in the book are either ones that already happened before the conversation, or weren't planned.

• 5:50 Melody6 Harry said it was himself

• 5:50 1337star Outside that, though, I'd love to know more about the magical paintings. We know the photographs are "normal" photographs dipped in a magical fluid, but what of the paintings?

• 5:50 ProfessorTofty No, it wasn't him.

• 5:51 Seth Cooper Knowing how desperate I am for more details on the whole wizarding society/history, what I think I would ask her would be something among the lines of "Can you give me a list of all the Supreme Mugwumps?", or "In what year was the Ministry of Magic established, and why exactly did it replace the Wizards' Council?"... It'd be something like a History of Magic pop quiz!

• 5:51 ProfessorTofty They specifically said "one more death and the way to Harry Potter is clear." So they weren't talking about Harry himself.

• 5:51 1337star Are they made with magical paint? Are they painted normally and then charmed afterwards? Are they merely formed through some magical process?

• 5:51 ProfessorTofty And this is another morbid one - but I'm kind of curious about the Weasley clock - the one that shows where everyone is at any given time. What happens when one of them dies - does their hand just disappear?

• 5:51 1337star The Headmaster portraits seem to be made via the latter of those methods.

• 5:51 Melody6 I'm thinking the paint was made with a magical plant

• 5:52 Nblonkenfeld These are amazing questions

• 5:52 Melody6 Agreed

• 5:52 Seth Cooper I always envisoned the Headmaster Portraits just popping up in the Head's Office whenever a TRUE (not Umbridge, though, LOL) Headmaster died

• 5:52 ProfessorTofty There's one I'm thinking of that would save those of us at the wiki a lot of grief, if one could get her to answer it directly, but it's a major spoiler.

• 5:52 Nblonkenfeld I was going to simply ask if she could do a whole series on "The Auror's"

• 5:53 Seth Cooper Hahahaha

• Seth Cooper How, exactly (or by whom) is the Minister for Magic elected?

• 5:57 ProfessorTofty Oh, good one.

• 5:57 1337star I don't know if I'm interested in The Casual Vacancy yet. I assume it will be good, but I'm not sure if its the kind of book I would read.

• 5:57 ProfessorTofty I mentioned this in the last chat, but I'd also like to know more about wizard society interaction with muggles in general. There's a whole community of muggle parents of wizards out there who now know about magic. I don't mind stories about politics, so I'll go for it.

• 5:59 1337star Pottermore's giving us quite a bit about wizarding/Muggle relations, though. Or at least how wizards view Muggle achievements like technology or fashion.

• ProfessorTofty I also read that it's supposed to be more of a comic novel, and I've always thought that Rowling is really good at comedy.

• 6:01 1337star Guess our hour is more or less up, huh?

• 6:02 ProfessorTofty Yeah. We definitely should do this again with Chamber, even if it's not part of the officially-sponsored Wikia chats.